Beta, Theta, Alpha, what now? Exactly what waves does our brain surf?
So, I’ve heard it said that a side effect of brainwaves being released, produces feelings of relaxation. You could phrase it like this, there are things you can do to get yourself into say an ‘alpha state’, but saying those brainwaves are ‘released’ isn’t completely accurate.
Brainwaves are emitted by the electric signals that are being communicated throughout the brain via synapses connections. So, during meditation, the electrical activity of your brain is determined by the signals that are being sent around by being in that relaxed state. That communication and neurological activity determines what brainwaves or energy signal (or neural activity) you’re putting out.
You can’t necessarily tune into that wave for feelings of relaxation, rather that brainwave will be a by-product or result of you feeling relaxed.
“The brain is an electrochemical organ. It uses electromagnetic energy in order to function. Observed electric activity, from the brain, can be displayed in the form of brainwaves.”
This may sound familiar to some of you. You may have heard of delta or beta waves on popular ‘YouTube’ videos that help promote better quality of sleep. There are four categories of brainwaves that function from high to low; Beta, Alpha, Theta, Delta.
BETA waves occur when we are at our most awake, when we are concentrating and thinking.
ALPHA waves occur when we are awake but relaxed, like during meditation.
THETA waves happen in an even deeper relaxed state, when we may be daydreaming or when we are dreaming during REM sleep. ‘Theta state’ has also been observed during shamanic journeying and recorded out of body experiences.
DELTA waves are the deepest of them all. These occur when we are in a deep and dreamless sleep.
In terms of what you can do to overcome emotional reactions like anxiety, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or CBT, is an excellent tool. Our brain continuously responds to things, depending on what messages it receives from our five senses. Studies have shown that brain activity can vary depending on sensory input and this can result in an emotional reaction. ‘Cognitive Behavioural Therapy’ introduces methods in which we can re-programme our brain from recognised patterns of behaviour and responses, to achieve different results when faced with certain situations. So where before, something like physical touch, audio cues as in certain words, sounds or music, or perhaps even certain smells and scents, may have caused a sense of danger which resulted in feelings of anxiety or panic. Instead, by using CBT methods you can rewire or reprogram your brain to react non-defensively and more positively to things you may have perceived as a threat previous to using CBT methods. And of course, when you’re feeling safe, secure and positive, you will be able to achieve higher states and feelings of relaxation.
It’s all hopeful and reassuring research, fascinating but quite complex stuff! For those of you interested in neuroscience and neurology, here is an excellent article on the research of studies carried out on the links between brainwaves and Neurofeedback training to help treat Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD): https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4741268/
Another clear article on this, from Psychology Today is here - https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/the-athletes-way/201504/alpha-brain-waves-boost-creativity-and-reduce-depression
So, what waves are you going to surf?